Newt Gingrich "wanted to be with us tonight," said an announcer at the Faith and Freedom Conference's closing dinner Saturday night, but since the former House speaker was away on a vacation planned "early in the campaign," according to his spokesman Rick Tyler, he sent a video instead. Cue eye rolls and uncomfortable chuckles from the crowd.
"I hope you have a great conference," Gingrich, in an impassive-sounding recording, told an unreceptive room. "And I want you to know that I stand with you on returning America to the core values that have made us the most remarkable nation." Underscoring the awkward courtesy claps that followed the GOP presidential candidate's video was the howling applause immediately afterward, when a similar clip by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., played.
For Gingrich, in his third marriage and with an admitted affair in his past, it was a convenient vacation. After a stumble out of the starting gate, the last thing he needed was heckling from an audience with which he's already handicapped.
Still, his message was on key: "You and I know that America's clearly on the wrong track," Gingrich said, "and that's true as much in terms of moral and social policies as it is economic policies and national security policies."